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Getting to Those Hard to Reach Places: Rural America and the Future feat. Shirley Bloomfield
It is an honor to have someone who has a vision of improving the quality of life in rural American communities. This week our special guest on the Utility Strategy Podcast is Shirley Bloomfield. Shirley has and continues to be an advocate for changing the way projects are carried out both in the public and private sectors.
Shirley began her career as senior VP of federal relations in Washington DC as a part of Qwest. She then went on to work for companies like Verizon to help build relationships between Washington and telecom / internet providers.
On this episode we will be discussing her main initiative today that focuses on bringing small service providers across the nation together to identify their problems, and work together on a federal level to find solutions.
Currently she is entering her 12th year as CEO of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, a premier trade association representing the small, rural carriers in the independent telecom industry.
With her well rounded background, we will be discussing a wide range of utility issues facing the industry from a lack of manpower to retrieving reliable data from utility owners.
Not enough workforce for the work ahead of them
Right now they are busy 24/7 putting infrastructure into the ground. They don't get enough workforce and equipment to do all of the work that they've got ahead of them. What I'm finding now is because their own communities are so well connected, what they are doing is looking at the communities that are outside their service territory.
They're looking at some of those other communities that have been left behind and thinking about how they can be part of that digital divide solution. How they can bridge that gap, how can they build into some of those communities to provide service to those folks who are still waiting.
Mapping is the million dollar puzzle piece
So mapping is the million-dollar puzzle piece to what we're talking about when we talk about infrastructure deployment. And in part, because there is going to be an unprecedented and historic amount of federal funding, and some state funding that is coming down the pike for broadband.
There’s already been a steady flow and there's gonna be a significant amount. Once this Infrastructure Act funding really starts coming into play from NTA down through the states. If you wanna be a good steward of resources, whether it's federal funding, state funding, or private funding, You need to know what you're building to, right?
Big Challenge of no one sharing their data
The challenge for mapping in this industry has always been nobody wants to share their data, right? If you are a competitor of mine, I'm not so crazy about telling you where I've got the infrastructure, but now layer that with, if I don't share where my infrastructure I'm not going to be able to get funding.
The concern about making sure that we are not using federal funds to overbuilds federal funds. How do you become the best stewards if you don't know where the infrastructure is and if consumers are able to get 25 3, 100 over 2100 over one gig access? So there's a big challenge ahead on that.